I love movies. There are what are traditionally thought up as “bad” movies, filled with technical incompetence, odd acting choices and even middle of the road films that nobody cares about. Some movies are just “awful” enough to actually be enjoyable and entertaining in a sort of junk food level. I’ve already gone at length about how weird movie reviews are, but “WORST Movies” lists are pretty damn weird as well. Some movies are expectedly bad but their ambition was pretty low to begin with and listing only those would be like making a list of worst restaurants and only including Arby’s.
Instead I’m listing ten of the most DISAPPOINTING movies of the year (IN NO PARTICULAR ORDER). Disappointment can often be worse for viewers than outright bad. These are cases when a film fails to do what it sets out to do and most of these might just simply fail to entertain.
(WARNING SPOILER ALERT!!!! I SPOIL MASSIVE AMOUNTS OF INFORMATIION ON ALL OF THESE FILMS)
LET’S GET STARTED:
Man of Steel
Blockbuster films are some of the most important kinds of movies. NOT BECAUSE THEY ARE SOME GRAND ACHIEVEMENT OF THE ARTS. They are important because EVERYONE WATCHES THEM. These are the movies that help inspire that lonely kid with the acne to go out to see movies; they are the films everyone gathers around and talks about. These films become ingrained into the very fabric of populist culture. A good blockbuster film can be just as enjoyable as it is skillful at getting the same basic human life lessons equal to that of some high-minded art films. These are the modern-day versions of the proverbial campfire stories of yesteryear. That’s why there is a certain responsibility of these films to get the basic mechanics of storytelling down as best as possible. A lot of time and talent goes into the making of these films and it can be so easy to get cynical about greedy film studios and a dumbed-down nation, but that’s why those mechanisms of story are so integral. And that was precisely where Man of Steel failed.
There was a lot of talent at work behind this movie. After the critical and commercial success of director Christopher Nolan’s Dark Knight Trilogy, the next logical step for DC Comics and Warner Bros. was to begin a new film franchise based on their other flagship superhero – Superman. Nolan was producing; Zack Snyder (Dawn of the Dead, 300) while not the most revered of directors, has a strong reputation as a talented visual artist. It was marketed as the latest in a line of re-interpretations (over 75 years’ worth) of the mythology of the character and franchise. What the film set out was a much more cerebral, grounded and realistic version in line with The Dark Knight Trilogy. Where did the film go wrong? It wasn’t the fact that they transformed a modern and optimistic American myth into a violent and nihilistic mess. It wasn’t the fact that the film was too self-conscious and dull to embrace any of the fun, charm and humanity of previous incarnations. It wasn’t the fact that the film was filled with more indulgent disaster-porn than all the past disaster movies of the last decade combined. It wasn’t the fact that the film was bloated with needless amounts of repetitious exposition. And it certainly wasn’t the fact that the film failed to provide even a modicum of character development or even define them past the most obscure of motivations. IT WAS ALL OF THOSE THINGS COMBINED! There’s a lot to blame here: the film’s attempt to both be an origin story and NOT; and the misguided attempt to make the film MORE action-packed than its other summer blockbuster peers. Man of Steel SHOULD have been beautiful and inspirational populist entertainment. Instead, it became an ugly and cynical orgy of violence and CG imagery.
I was all on board for a gritty and darker Superman yet sadly, this film was devoid of even that…it was devoid of the makings of story and the narrative worked in complete opposition to the plot. The narrative of the film never let its characters actually have natural human conversations with each other. Nearly every single part of dialogue was clunky exposition: Jonathan Kent (Kevin Costner) explains to a young Clark Kent (not yet Superman) who Clark Kent is; Jor-El (Russell Crowe) explains to Clark (Henry Cavil) who Clark SHOULD be; Clark Kent explains BOTH to Lois Lane (Amy Adams); Zod (Michel Shannon) explains the alien/first contact plot directly to the camera while Superman happens to be in the same room; Perry White (Lawrence Fishburne) explains who Lois Lane is to Lois Lane; and Scientist Emil Hamilton (Richard Schaffer) explains what is happening during the compute-generated on screen chaos…DO YOU SENSE A PATTERN? Despite all of the set-up and marketing the film never actually pays-off the whole “How will Earth react to Superman?” question that is the driving force of the film’s first hour. Think about the basic questions that should be addressed when dramatizing characters. What does this character want? What does this character need? How do the wants and needs conflict within the character, other characters and the outside world? How does the character change through these conflicts? What impact does any of this have on everyone else in the story? Neither Superman nor any of the other characters are dramatized enough to address those things.
We’re told repeatedly that Superman is supposed to be this grand messiah figure of heroism yet he takes direct part in the absolute death and destruction of a metropolitan area and we’re never shown any form of selfless heroism from the character beyond the oil-rig and school bus rescue in the beginning of the film. Kevin Costner plays the most confusing parent a burgeoning superhero could have: a man who tells his son he should rather let people die rather than reveal his powers one minute, then immediately tells him he is destined to become a great hero when he reveals his powers. THAT IS HOW MIXED UP THE WRITING OF THE FILM IS. Whenever there are narrative shorthand bits of the movie where an attempt is made to breathe life into characters, setting and plot, the movie almost immediately contradicts that or goes the other way around. For example: despite not showing any form of recognizable selflessness and caring for other people (besides damsel-in-distress Lois Lane) and allowing thousands to be killed in the crossfire during his overly long super-powered fisticuffs with Zod; all of a sudden we’re supposed to buy this moment of drama where Superman must kill in order to save a family of four in peril. This narrative contradiction is all the more noticeable an issue with the film as a film and it’s debatable as to whether or not the FICTIONAL character of Superman would ever kill in any incarnation. Perhaps the worst crime Man of Steel commits is actually being dull and boring in spite of or perhaps because of the relentless indulgence.
The Hobbit: The Desolation of Smaug
How can a critically acclaimed movie be simultaneously considered one of the worst? There’s a strange mystique surrounding big-budgeted blockbusters especially when they are related to popular intellectual properties that have a significant amount of fans attached to them (the numbers rival that of even the biggest sports franchises). They are almost immune to any serious criticism because (thanks in part to the “open forum” of the internet) these are things that if anyone has just one little gripe with, somehow someone will defend it with insane devotion. The biggest issue with The Hobbit: The Desolation of Smaug (the one that few critics and almost NO fans are talking about) is the back-grounding of the film’s titular character, Bilbo Baggins (Martin Freeman) away from most of the film. For a movie padded out with so many action sequences (which were quite tiresome but viewer mileage will vary), a three-hour length, more characters than 5 seasons of HBO’s The Wire, almost nothing happens of consequence in the film. The majority of the film, follows the journeys of the Dwarf King Thorin Oakenshield (Richard Armitage) and Elven Prince Legolas (Orlando Bloom), who has been given a major role instead of what should have been a cameo. Even fanfiction original character Tauriel (Evangeline Lily) is given a love triangle that takes up more actual screen time than the film’s central plot-line (the hunt for the lost treasure of the Dwarves).
Director Peter Jackson ends up making the same mistakes as Star Wars creator George Lucas, chief among them were clumsy attempts to connect this prequel trilogy to the original one. Nearly every time the main group of dwarves (plus one Hobbit) reaches a checkpoint in their quest, they are immediately assaulted by computer-generated Orcs (who NEVER look or act as threatening as the prosthetic makeup Orcs of the original trilogy)and the film FORCES dozens of minutes of exposition foreshadowing the rise and return of franchise antagonist, Sauron. Any form of fun and suspense from these needless sequences is crushed under the weight of visual effects excess. Take for example: the barrel chase sequence; Bilbo and the dwarves escape from the hall of the Woodland Elves in empty wine barrels. This is one of a handful of scenes in the film that are actually from the original novel (the rest is fanfiction from Jackson’s imagination and some unpublished texts from original author Tolkien). In the movie, the dwarves are pursued by a cluster of elf guards and an endless army of orcs. Now, the first film and the moments prior to this scene have positioned the dwarves and their quest as the primary thing the audience should care about; however this film does not care about any of that. That chase scene is the Legolas and Tauriel show. Another issue is how unhinged the virtual camera is from any earthly reality (we’re talking the kind of awful composition and angles you get when the controls don’t work in a videogame) and just how painfully obvious and cheap the computer generated imagery looks. I’m all in favor of CGI imagery and stunts (Gravity was one of the best films of 2013) but in order to work, the action has to be rooted in narrative and genuine pathos for the characters. Legolas flying around slaughtering endless orcs somehow lacks the thrill and logic-defying pleasure of seeing Vin Diesel fly through the air to catch his lover before landing unharmed on a car hundreds of feet away in Fast & Furious 6.
Indulgence is part of the appeal of blockbuster franchises, it’s the reason Michael Bay still makes movies, but there is a thin line where indulgence can easily transform into excess garbage. It only hurts that the film is really bad at setting up its own action sequences. Random encounters work fine in video games, but they simply weren’t built for the medium of film; and before people start crying “THAT WAS THE POINT, TO BE LIKE A VIDEOGAME,” I would like to note that random encounters in games are used to help players exercise and upgrade their virtual abilities and also to fill in time in between actual narrative: the sequences in the film do neither and therefore fail on that level. So in the end we have a film so overstuffed with disorganized plots, needless action sequences (in which the plot is just framework to get to those instead of the other way around) and no conclusion or dramatic development of consequence. The movie did achieve ONE thing though: it made the actual plot and scenes adapted from the original novel seem out of place and unnecessary to the film as a whole. Conclusion: a simple walk into Mordor would have sufficed.
Sophia Coppola is very talented. Lost in Translation is one of the very best odes to friendship and loneliness ever put to film, Marie Antoinette was a Baroque and Pop-art mash-up that used the framework of an anachronistic historical biopic to tell a fable about the burdens of fame and celebrity alienation. It’s somewhat fitting that a movie about the hollow, self-centeredness of a generation obsessed with celebrities seem so hollow, self-centered and obsessed with celebrities. It’s primarily a lack of drama that kills this movie. Based on the true story of how a group of teens broke into several homes of celebrities and steal thousands if not millions worth of their clothes, jewelry and belongings: these kids hang out, start stealing and they get rich(er). Eventually they get busted yet they learn nothing. Unlike movies such as The Wolf of Wall Street or even Spring Breakers, the lack of moral consequence isn’t even explored for it’s worth as a dramatic choice. The reason why this is one of the worst movies of the year is simply because it’s the WRONG kind of movie for its aims. Coppola uses the structure of a coming of age teen dramedy and rise/fall crime film, but that absolutely clashes with the dry lack of drama and “just the facts” delivery- THE LACK OF NARRATIVE. The things that are kind of good or interesting would have been right at home in a non-fiction novel or even a documentary…neither of which are what the film is. Coppola was certainly on to something here as the film presents a different type of class war: of Haves wanting to be as good as the Have A Lots. These kids are not poor yet they crave the decadence of the celebrities they idolize and you can see their once disaffected eyes spring to when the cameras are on them. The Bling Ring is not an outright bad film, it’s just a mess that ends up being rather empty and not fulfilling, and that can be the biggest problem with a movie. It’s a shame because the movie has great ambition and intent; it just never comes close to getting there.
Here’s a movie that is filled with pretty much everything that people say they love about big Hollywood movies, it’s strange that those are the very things that they ALSO hate about those same movies. It seems like a very bi-polar stance, and it is. That is because the indulgence that attracts people to go see these movies, can go so horribly wrong sometimes. The Lone Ranger is a bloated and sadly cynical mess of cliches that never once relishes in the things it borrows from other movies (and the original franchise from which it’s based upon) and it instead seems embarrassed by them. There’s an ugly self-awareness in the film that burdens it with a general lack of joy or any genuine emotion. It’s confounding how tedious the movie is. Unfortunately it isn’t tedious in that magical way director Gore Verbinski made the 3rd Pirates of the Caribbean film; where there is this bizarre piling of betrayal upon reversal upon set piece upon action scene upon change of heart until it just became this silly mess of awful that’s strangely compulsively watchable. The Lone Ranger is tedious in that it is just plain boring. Here is a movie that comes close to the 3 hour mark where more than 1/3rd of the film is dedicated to repetitive scenes of Tonto (Johnny Depp) and The Lone Ranger (Armie Hammer) bickering. The action is thinly spread out but the problem is that none of the scenes were memorable or visually varied (even The Hobbit’s tiresome sequences showed a glint of memorable cartoonishness). By the time the film get’s to its climactic, and most engaging scene (complete with a modern rendition of the classic Lone Ranger theme song), it’s already too late. A final “Hail Mary” of ingenuity and action can’t make up for the dull and poorly paced previous 2+ hours. Perhaps one day, we will all look back at The Lone Ranger and see it as representation of Hollywood’s nadir in the 2000s/2010s. The greatest achievement of this movie, is that it so perfectly represents the problems audiences now have with big budget blockbusters today.
Nothing happened in this movie. OK, MOVING ON….
Maybe things did happen in the movie: sure there was a spaceship crash, some father/son interaction, jungle exploration and fights with large computer animated beasts. It even follow’s the narrative structure of a videogame where the protagonist must collect several McGuffins in order to advance and continue his journey. NONE OF THESE THINGS MATTER! Not because of some bizarre cop-out ending (NO, Will Smith wasn’t dead the whole time and NO, this is not an artificially fenced-in society or dream) but because the movie is absolutely missing in character drama and narrative focus. This is such a tough movie to analyze and explore on its own primarily because it’s so lacking in the mechanics of filmmaking that one can give serious critical evaluation to. Aside from the marooned survivor setup of the movie, there is no tension or dramatic development. This is the movie version of the saying “well, shit happens.” The only two characters in the movie are absolute ciphers devoid of any discernible or distinguishable character traits beyond simply being in the movie and reacting to things that happen. THIS WOULD WORK FINE IN A CO-OP VIDEOGAME. We go to movies, to be told a story and not to interact with it: which is why that type of videogame structure does not work on film. No matter how many monkeys, birds, monkeybirds or oversized catwolves the main character Kitai (Jaden Smith) may encounter or how cold the computer generated background suggests it has gotten on set: THERE IS NEVER A TANGIBLE SENSE OF JE0PARDY. Without any sort of conflict for the character, he can never grow or develop and neither does the story (beyond moving from setpiece to setpiece). For all the film’s insistence on being some sort of metaphor for evolution and coming-of-age, the lack of risk and tension never really allows such a journey to play out. The director M. Night Shyamalan was once positioned as the next big auteur of his generation. He gave us the 6th Sense, a Hitchcock-esque homage to classic ghost stories; Unbreakable was arguably the most grounded and literal take on the superhero genre (before The Dark Knight); and Signs was a solid exercise in the execution of a suspense thriller and an interesting take on the alien-invasion film. After Earth is the culmination of the director’s steady decline in skill that began with The Village (a pale attempt to imitate the successes of 6th Sense and Signs). The director’s future body of work is uncertain, which is more than can be said about the fates of the characters in After Earth for the duration of the film.
Mark Millar is a very strange comic book writer to try to understand through his body of work alone. Superman: Red Son is one of the most intriguing examinations on the trials and tribulations of being a global superpower guised up as a fun “What if” scenario for the titular character. His stylish re-imagining of Marvel’s Avengers mythos titled The Ultimates explores similar themes and also emphasized the soapy human drama that is a staple of superhero fiction albeit with the type of nuance and maturity (also sex and violence) reserved for an HBO adult drama. Wanted was a dystopian meta-textual commentary on a world that is without the wonders of superheroes and their mythology to inspire and entertain people. Trying to reconcile those creative works with the mean-spirited, misogynistic, misanthropic and messy violent works such as Nemesis and Kick-Ass is no small feat. The first film that adapted Kick-Ass took some liberties with the source material. Although director Matthew Vaughn seemed very influenced by very Paul Verhoven (Robocop, Starship Troopers) in its over-the-top brutality and violence, the film largely did away with much of the cynicism and misanthropy of the comics. Somehow, that made the film watchable and even enjoyable. This film does away with everything that the previous one did right in exchange for: RAPE JOKES, MORE GRATUITOUS VIOLENCE, RACIST JOKES, POOP JOKES, SEX JOKES, PENIS JOKES, VAGINA JOKES, BUTT JOKES, and EXCESSIVE FOUL LANGUAGE, REFERENCE HUMOR, HATRED FOR EVERY CHARACTER AND EMPTY NIHILISM. Notice any patterns? Gone is the wry wit, the humanity of the cast and the odd sense of pop joy. On a more positive note, the charm and screen presence of Aaron Tyler Johnson and Chloe Grace Moretz as Kick-Ass and Hit-Girl respectively keeps things somewhat light and entertaining at times. The same can’t be said about the rest of the cast, especially Christopher Mintz-Plasse as “The Mother-Fucker” who never once manages to deliver any of his lines convincingly. There are already people getting pre-offended by elements of this film but it manages to be BOTH so dull and so “try-hard” at being offensive that it comes off as numbingly UN-offensive. I’m offended that the movie was attempting yet failing so desperately to offend so I guess that’s Kick-Ass 2’s sole accomplishment.
From the opening shot of director Ridley Scott and author Cormac McCarthy’s The Counselor, in which Michael Fassbender’s character performs cunnilingus (supposedly) on the character played by Penélope Cruz— ALL while their disembodied voices play out some pseudo-philosophical musings on love and life — this is a movie that almost dares it’s audiences to leave or check their phones. THIS movie has every reason to be an engrossing thriller but instead it’s as if Scott, McCarthy and their all-star cast, which also includes Brad Pitt, Javier Bardem and Cameron Diaz decided to purposefully defy expectations and decide to make a dull one instead. Fassbender plays an El Paso lawyer with few distinguishing characteristics beyond what other characters tell him he is like (which he never shows or portrays), and he has no name. He gets involved in a murky and obviously doomed drug deal whose details are never explained, which would be fine if they were shown in an understandable manner, but they never are. There are a couple of quick and gruesome murder scenes in this film (unfortunately one exists completely tangential to the plot). Of note there’s a scene where a Cameron Diaz has sex with a car. Save for that one scene, every action that happens in the film just happen on screen with little to no context. The narrative of the film is entirely reliant upon scenes consisting of the Counselor sitting around with his crooked peers and having choppy, inconsistent and overwrought conversations about death, women and money and the meaning of life. It’s like the characters were secretly filming a mumblecore film but forgot to let the conversations lead to somewhere narrative-wise. In fact, that may be the most apt metaphor for this film: it’s like someone spent millions of dollars to make a mumblecore movie about a bunch of Liberal Arts philosophy majors who turned to crime. It’s clear that the film is more in love with its overwritten dialogue scenes than anything else. Stylized dialogue is one of the hallmarks of McCarthey’s writing, whereupon there are layers of meaning and character woven in seamlessly into the diction and syntax but here: it’s never seamless and it’s often repetitive. For example: Fassbender is given not one but THREE whole speeches explaining to him about accepting the inevitability of death (actor Ruben Blades who plays some sort of kingpin, delivers the longest one); Cameron Diaz explains in about two scenes (and Javier Bardem explains in an additional scene) how she is a predator who preys on the weak and so on. That type of repetition could be this surreal hypnotism in another director’s film and may even be better suited for prose within a novel. In this film it all just comes off as obtuse and unnecessary. It’s such a strange phenomenon as none of the INDIVIDUAL factors (the acting is impeccable, the cinematography and direction is excellent, and the dialogue would be considered sharp in any other movie) are “bad” yet when put together as a whole, the movie simply does not work.
This film is proof that people have truly forgotten what made the original Die Hard films more than just generic action films. What it lacks in logic it also manages to lack in basic character chemistry and development, but most of all is completely lacks any sense of narrative discipline. John McClane (played by a now sleepwalking Bruce Willis) has been transformed from the average-Joe action hero into an insane and violent sociopath. There is never a clear antagonist or villain. There is never a ticking clock or urgent scenario. It also features forgettable and generic action sequences that hold none of the iconic status of the original films; save for an attempt with a big-scale chase sequence where McClane seemingly kills more civilians than the baddies. These are all reasons why it’s not worthy of the Die Hard franchise name. However, reasons must be given as to why this film is one of the weakest of 2013. The film is poorly shot and edited, every scene is framed in the most incongruous and unnecessary ways where mis-en-scene and cinematography is incomprehensible. The majority of screen-time is dedicated to characters grunting insults at one another in non-conversations that never lead anywhere dramatically, and that is when there is NO gratuitous violence and destruction happening at the time. There are no character bits beyond said example, and most of it is just to fill in time as the next scene of chaos is set up and staged. For the most part, we are never given a sense nor are the characters given a sense of where they are going, what they are going to do and why they are bothering to do so. The “plot” is an incomprehensible mess about Officer McClane tracking down his son in Russia, whom he discovers works undercover for the CIA on a mission to transport some criminal bigwig. Then somehow they end up fighting armed Russians in Chernobyl (without radiation protection gear) and the film just ends. A Good Day to Die Hard is a technical and story mechanics failure as an action picture and even in its clumsy attempts at character. Very little of what happens on screen makes sense or leads smoothly into the next part which is probably what we will all be thinking when they announce the NEXT installment of the Die Hard series in spite of this film’s critical and commercial failure.
There are some movies that some would argue are forms of propaganda. Occasionally that may be because viewers are merely looking at the surface elements (concept, setting, characters etc) and not attempting to see any of the film’s actual artistic merits nor the subtext and messages of the film. Elysium, however makes no pretense about being anything other than propaganda about healthcare, poverty and immigration. That’s not to say this film COULD NOT HAVE BEEN GREAT on its own. The problem is that the film is so chock-full of squandered potential that it never rises above its heavy-handed political themes. On paper, this R-rated, 2D, ORIGINAL science-fiction action-drama is everything we say critics and viewers have been saying they’ve wanted in mainstream cinema for years. Good intentions and production design can only carry a film so far and can NEVER excuse botched execution. The film is over-stuffed with dizzying shaky-cam action and odd close-ups that makes finding any conventional Hollywood action thrills next to impossible. The film begins as an obvious parable for illegal immigration (all of the poor on the ravaged shanty-town earth speak primarily in Spanish EVEN Matt Damon) and income inequality before basically stating that the only difference between the 1% and the 99% is access to free healthcare and BVLGARI products. It’s truly unfortunate that the film is so reliant upon an immature understanding of economics and social systems that it uses grade-school level book report-type dialogue that will make you yearn for the needless stylishness of The Counselor. The film fails to build its sci-fi world and integrate its vision of futuristic technology seamlessly into the plot and setting. For all its political posturing, the film comes up with a silly, overly simplistic and and un-educated McGuffin solution to its central conflict. It is based on a plot thread that positions the Matt Damon character (BECAUSE ONLY THE WHITE MAN CAN UNDERSTAND AND SAVE THE POOR HISPANICS) as this badly defined messiah figure. His “harrowing” quest comes to a final showdown and confrontation with…a maniacal rape-obsessed super-soldier played by Sharlto Copley. Never mind that the film COMPLETELY sidelines the character who represents the things the film was taking the position against (the “EVIL” and decadently wealthy 1%), but in defense Jodie Foster was hamming it up as said character with an atrociously odd French accent (she certainly had fun with that). The film climaxes with an eye-rollingly obvious resolution: “FREE HEALTHCARE FOR EVERYONE!” The film even manages to turn its strongest characters (who happen to both be women) into sexually imperiled damsels-in-distress who need a big strong and violent man to save them. Social Commentary in mainstream cinema can be a magical thing, yet Elysium manages to suck any and all intelligent discourse not to mention any Hollywood indulgent fun out of this film. The finished product now just seems destined for the cold forgettable darkness of a Wal-Mart bargain bin.
I honestly never thought that the G.I. Joe sequel and Fast & Furious 6 would turn out to be much more cohesive and tightly structured/edited/directed/scripted than the latest Star Trek movie. That is no exaggeration. To truly explain why this is movie does not work – it’s not merely a bad Star Trek movie, but a bad movie period – I will need to spoil the entire film. This analysis is not meant as a consumer guide or recommendation: it is an examination of SOME of the problems that prevented what COULD HAVE BEEN a merely enjoyable and simple-minded action movie from being so.
J.J. Abrams’ reboot of Star Trek was this bizarre miracle of a film. When you think deeply about the movie at all: the plot holes, its naive simplicity, the gaps in story logic etc. –it begins to quickly fall apart. However due to the strength of its dramatic arc and cleverly defined characters – the film manages to keep things together and work as a cohesive and fulfilling experience. This new film begins an undisclosed time after the events of the previous installment. The setting acts as if it’s been years but the characters are every bit as immature as they were IN THE BEGINNING OF THE PREVIOUS FILM so I’m going to assume it’s been weeks if not months after the last film. They open with what is set up to be a big source of character conflict in the film (Chris Pine’s Kirk is a maverick and Zachary Quinto’s Spock is a strickler for the rules) and later a clumsy attempt at role-reversal dramatic irony. Captain Kirk ignores the rules of his superiors to rescue his friend Spock from certain DOOM only to set up a future climactic scene where the roles of the two get reversed. Then the film cuts to a scene where a “terrorist” attack shakes up Starfleet (the primary political peacekeeping and ambassadorial agency of the Star Trek universe). It turns out that this attack was merely to set up a meeting between Starfleet officials so that they could be assassinated. THEN, that stage of the plan turned out to be subterfuge for igniting a war between Starfleet and the savage planet of the Klingon warrior race. Quickly after that, it is revealed that the whole plot to ignite a war was actually pretense for disgruntled genetically augmented super-soldier, Khan (played by a manic and over-acting Benedict Cumberbatch) to obtain prototype torpedoes that he used to hide his cryogenically frozen super-people brethren. This kind of convoluted shadow conspiracy plotting with a labyrinth structure would be tolerable if it all acted in service of some dramatic arc and development for its characters. Unfortunately, it does not: characters behavior and actions are completely in service of conveniently reacting to the plot rather than being the driving force behind it.
The plot is a confused and messy McGuffin that drives characters to nonsensical positions. It seems that at some point, the filmmakers were aware at how murky the proceedings were becoming so they had the good mind to have Spock make an (unmotivated by actual plot) urgent call to his time-displaced older self to assure audiences that Khan is a villain who both can’t be trusted and must be stopped no matter the cost. That’s the level of writing quality for everything in the movie. Old Spock explains why Khan is a bad guy; Admiral Pike (Bruce Greenwood) explains Kirk’s character and the lessons he must learn by the end of the film (which he never does) all to Kirk; Khan explains his own entire backstory and plans to everybody, and the corrupt military admiral (Peter Weller of Robocop and Naked Lunch) explains his plan(s) to the entire crew of the Enterprise. The film makes this misguided move to simply rush from generic and incomprehensibly staged action scene to action scene and only ever stops to have character deliver un-graceful exposition directly to the camera. I’m pretty sure that that’s not what they teach in elementary school level English/writing/literature classes. I accept that cheats are allowed in storytelling and can be absolutely necessary. There is a pact between storytellers and audience in that cheats (such as the miracle Khan super-blood that can resurrect the dead) should be kept to a minimum. This unspoken pact dictates that as often as possible plot points should make sense, they should primarily be motivated by the characters and that the characters in turn should have motivations that make sense and feed back into the narrative. Star Trek Into Darkness violates that understanding. That role reversal between Kirk and Spock fails dramatically because the supposed relationship between the two characters was never given any time to truly develop and be given any thematic weight: it’s reliant on narrative short-hand and the assumption that you already know these characters from previous incarnations.
I will say this: the cast of the film have a lot of on-screen charisma and chemistry. The interplay between characters despite the weaknesses of the script and story is quite charming and endearing. It’s easy to see why people have gravitated to this movie and not just because of the fanservice. While we’re on the subject of fanservice, model/actress Alice Eve plays Dr. Carol Marcus: a character that has plenty of screen time but serves no actual dramatic or narrative purpose in the film. However as soon as she reaches her biggest character moment, STRIPPING DOWN TO HER UNDERWEAR ON SCREEN, it becomes pretty obvious what her purpose was…as was the film’s.
I HOPE YOU ENJOYED READING ABOUT 10 OF THE WORST FILMS THAT CAME OUT IN 2013. I’M SURE THAT WOULD BE MORE ENJOYABLE THAN SEEING SOME OF THESE FILMS.
At the end of the day however, one should never really “HATE” a bad film. Even these films certainly have their merits. The important thing is: TO USE THESE TYPES OF FILMS AS LEARNING EXPERIENCES FOR THE IMPORTANCE OF STORYTELLING MECHANICS AND AS A LITMUS TEST FOR CULTURAL EVALUATION OF THE ARTS.
TILL NEXT TIME!!!